With summer weather fully settled in (in March, no less) and the Quad Rock 50 only a couple months away and the Bighorn 100 a month after that, I figured it was high time I got in a 30 mile run. I've come close a couple of times with runs of 26.5 and 27.5, but hadn't hit the magical and totally arbitrary big 3-0 yet this training cycle.
I also decided that with the snow pack rapidly receding (70-80 degree temps will do that for ya), it was time to explore some new territory. I set my focus on the Deerfield Trail, which branches off of the Centennial Trail not too far from the southern-most point of the Black Hills 100 course. The Deerfield is about 23 miles long in and of itself, but also connects to the Deerfield Loop, which loops around Deerfield Reservoir for 11 more miles. So, conceivably, you could get in a good 34 miles by running the whole kit and kaboodle. Unfortunately, the logistics of such an endeavor aren't all that simple. Doing so pretty much necessitates having two vehicles and leaving one somewhere along the loop and the other at the Deer Creek Trailhead, which services both the Centennial and Deerfield trails. Complicating things further is the fact that the road system in the area doesn't provide a quick and easy way to drive back and forth from the reservoir to the Deer Creek trailhead to drop off/retrieve those vehicles...there would be a fair bit of driving (and subsequent time wasted, which I hate) involved. So, a full running of the Deerfield and its loop would have to wait for another time.
Instead, the plan was to meet Ryan at the Deer Creek TH. From there we would run out on the Deerfield Trail for aways before turning back and returning to Deer Creek and then I would continue on the Centennial to wrap up the rest of the mileage (Ryan is on the mend from a bout of pneumonia, so he wasn't up for a full 30). We ended up going 10 miles out on the Deerfield, for a solid 20 out and back. After a fairly steep but relatively short climb upon branching off from the Centennial, the Deerfield dropped down into the old mining town of Silver City, which is now not much more than a city hall, a fire hall and a few houses. At that point the trail leveled out considerably, following a paved road for a very short stretch, and then a dirt road and then a wide single track trail (much like a rails to trails trail) and then finally dwindling back down to single track.
After leaving Silver City, the trail first parallels Rapid Creek for a ways before branching off to follow Slate Creek, a smaller tributary of Rapid Creek. The Slate Creek section is where the trail really got interesting. It was still fairly gradual along that stretch as we were immediately adjacent to the creek, but as the canyon narrows, the trail starts criss-crossing the creek multiple times. As in 25 times in 3.5 miles according to the informational sign we came across at one point. All of the crossings have footbridges, which was good on that day since the shaded canyon was still holding a lot of ice and snow and the water in the creek was fairly frigid. Not really conditions where you want to run with wet feet for a significant amount of time. All in all, it was a nice, easy, very scenic section of trail (pictures, I know, I need pictures).
Not so easy was that damn climb out of Silver City back over the mountain to the Centennial. I swear to God, we went up three times as far on the way back as we had come down on the way out. Funny how that works out. Regardless, upon returning to Deer Creek, I refilled with water and parted ways with Ryan not feeling all that hot. I chugged a Boost at the trailhead and that was sitting pretty heavy in my gut, so I took it pretty easy for the first couple of miles along the Centennial. Eventually, my stomach settled down and the Boost kicked in and I started feeling significantly better and managed to crank out the final 10 miles on the Centennial without too much trouble.
All in all, not a bad way to spend 5.5+ hours on sunny and warm Saturday morning/afternoon. If nothing else, it got me out of a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. I definitely think I got the better end of that deal.